Monday, January 30, 2012

On My Unhealthy Relationship With Baseball Cards

By The Common Man

Everything I bought this weekend
 On Saturday and Sunday, I spent all day wandering around the Metrodome and standing in lines for autographs at the Minnesota Twins' annual fan fest. It was, as usual, a nerdtastic good time. If you love baseball and are as immersed in a team's history and invested in its success as Bill and I are, it's a terrific experience to meet players, shake hands, question GMs, and check out memerobilia.

It's also a tremendous opportunity, in our case, to check out baseball cards.

I don't know what your relationship with baseball cards is, but here's mine: I started collecting when just about everyone else did in the mid-1980s. I still have every Topps set from 1986-1994, and the 1989-1992 Upper Deck sets. There are also a few random Score and Fleer sets thrown in there. I collected as many cards as I could afford.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Jim Bowden Is Every General Manager

Obligatory Bowden-on-a-Nats-Segway photo!
AP Photos / The Washington Times, Peter Lockley
By Bill

I've done my fair share of ripping GM-turned-internet-and-radio-baseball-expert Jim Bowden, particularly on Twitter. More in the last few weeks than previously, I'd say, but I did quite a bit of it before that, too. He makes it pretty easy.

Near the beginning of the offseason, Bowden wrote a piece that seemed like one of the most ridiculous things he'd ever come up with, called "Pricing the free agents" (Insider only). In it, Bowden listed what he saw as the top 50 free agents, and attempted to predict the contract they would receive, or, in his words, an "estimate of what I would pay the top 50 free agents if I were a GM of a club that had the budget and need for that kind of player."

Very nearly every prediction seemed absurdly high to me, and to many others. I admit, I mocked it quite a bit (I can't take the time to scroll back and find examples because it was too long ago, but they're there if you want to look). Four years for Madson? $30 million for Cuddyer? Please.

But as the chips started to fall and players signed, it became clear that he was probably not as far off as many of us assumed. As we went further along, it became clear that he wasn't off at all. The bloom might be coming off the rose a bit as some holdovers end up going at bargain prices, but still, almost all of Bowden's picks have been close enough to be considered right on.

Here's a chart of the top 25 players on Bowden's list who have signed big-league free agent contracts (some have accepted arbitration, like David Ortiz, and a couple haven't signed yet, like Roy Oswalt). The first two columns are Bowden's predictions for contract length and average annual value (AAV), the next two are the actual length and AAV at which the player signed, and the final two are the amount by which Bowden missed (in either direction) on those two numbers:

To Brad Radke! - A 2012 Minnesota Twins Commercial

By The Common Man

The Common Man is very much in a Twinkies kind of mood at the moment, with TwinsFest happening this weekend, and Spring Training getting ever closer.  Plus, Brad Radke promises to be at TwinsFest for the first time (we think) since he retired. 

Radke's career grows to mythic proportions when TCM and Bill discuss it.  He was a good pitcher for a very long time that suffered through a lot of bad teams to ultimately emerge as the stallwart member of the first competitive Minnesota clubs in the 21st Century.  He took the ball almost every turn, and was the pitching version of running back LeRoy Hoard.  If you needed your starter to go 7 innings and give up 3 runs, to win, Brad Radke would go 7 innings and give up three runs.  If you needed your starter to go 7 innings and give up 1 run to win, Brad Radke would go 7 innings and give up 3 runs.  He became the archetype to which every single Twins pitcher since has been compared and evaluated.  And by the time his career ended in 2006, his shoulder was completely shredded (he had pitched 21 starts through immense pain) and he couldn't brush his hair anymore without help.

So it's only fair we commemorate him with his own commercial to celebrate his TwinsFest return, and to celebrate the fact that he could still probably outpitch 3/5 of the Twins rotation.  Here's The Common Man's suggestion:

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Question about Win Curves and Value

Watching Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder hit back-to-back for the next few years is going to be awesome. Despite the fact that it may not look so good 6 or so years from now, it will be awesome for a little while. That money, though, gives many pause as they begin to look at his contract, but as Mike Rogers pointed out, the value of adding wins isn’t constant. All of the research points to a win being worth around $4.5-5 million, but that isn’t true for each team. For teams in the 70-73 win range, it doesn’t make much sense to pay that much for a win when it won’t help. For teams in the 87-89 win range, the value of additional wins goes up because adding a win or two might be the difference between making the playoffs (thus having the opportunity to win the World Series and make tons of extra money) and not. The Tigers are that type of team, so paying a little extra for him makes sense. The question, however, becomes how much. Mike and I started talking on Twitter, and we discussed who exactly gets credit for those “additional wins”.

When I’ve seen some things on Jonathan Papelbon or Fielder’s contracts, people point out their respective team’s place on the win curve. As I’ve already said, teams in the 90-win range can justify spending a little extra for wins, but when it comes up, it almost seems as though those players are given all the credit for those additional wins. For instance, the Tigers are a (spitballing) 87-win team for 2012, but by adding Fielder, they are now a 91-92 win team. Thus, the Tigers should be okay spending a little extra for each win because Fielder is responsible for upping the win total. The thing is that I’m not sure that makes sense.

The team was constructed as an 87-win team before Fielder signed, so it seems like he is responsible for wins 88-92. But is that true? It’s not as if Fielder sits the bench until those wins are needed and then comes on to single-handedly win those four games. His value is spread throughout the season just like everyone else’s. Can you really give him credit for those wins?

And how would you react if you make multiple signings? What if you’re an 82-win team that adds two four-win players? Does the first player signed not get the added bonus because he was first? Does the second player get all of it because he was the last to sign? It doesn’t make sense to give both of them the bonus. The first one only put you into the mid-80s and shouldn’t get the bonus if you use the above line of reasoning. If you planned to sign both of the players but not necessarily the order, do you spread it evenly?

And how many years of the contract do you give him a bonus? If you think your window is 2 years but the contract is for 5, do you give him the bonus for all five years, knowing that he might not sign now if you don’t?

And say you sign a guy the year before to put you into the 90-win range, and you give him that bonus for the however many years of his contract. This off-season, you lost a four-win player, and you’re now going to sign another one (or the same one to a new contract). The player you must sign this off-season will technically now put you in the 90-win range. Does he get the bonus, too, even though you’ve already paid for those wins? And if he does and you did this again, just how many wins are you paying for, especially when you have that other guy who will be a free-agent next year?

Now let’s say you don’t pay for full wins. Instead, you pay by a ratio of wins added. Let’s say you predict (which is all you can do when you make the deal) to win 90 games and the player should add 4. That’s 4/(90-48=52) to get 7.6 or 8% of the possible bonus. You pay a little extra, but you won’t use it all. You can’t really split it evenly because you’ll still end up in a situation where you’re paying too much for wins as the contracts pile up (split it 2 ways this year but that won’t work next season).

I suppose this really just a on-the-fringes question, but it does puzzle me a bit. I understand the logic behind paying more for certain wins, but I’m not sure how much sense it really makes as you look at it further. You could argue that you just live with it because you’re just continually in that spot and that it only matters for free-agents, but you’ve decided on a number for those wins and continue to pay it to multiple people, though you only meant it for one. I’m entirely sure how to rectify it other than to say that this is the difference between theory and reality. In a one-year perspective, it makes sense, or at least more, but as you continue further out, it makes less and less sense as you move out further and further. Teams are responding to their situation, economic forces, market pressures, their placement on the win curve, and the need to win now and damn the future. It’s just a question. I have no official conclusion. It’s just something that’s been on my mind.

12 Simple Rules for Surviving TwinsFest 2012

By The Common Man

This weekend, as you might already know, is TwinsFest, the annual autograph party/baseball card show/memorabilia auction/other stuff put on by the local Minnesota nine. Last year, due to the actual collapse of the Metrodome, the Twins were forced to relocate their celebration to a venue that was excessively crowded, confusing, and generally unpleasant for everyone involved. This year, though, with the Teflon baggie back up, the Twins and their fans are for once glad to be headed back to the team’s former home.

The Common Man and Bill will be there on both Saturday and Sunday, with special guest and fan of experiences Carson Cistulli, of FanGraphs and NotGraphs fame. He is pictured, sans his new, unwieldy mustache, to your right. If you see a really tall guy walking around with a really short guy, that’s probably Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito reliving their glory days in Twins. But if you see a marginally tall guy with a marginally short guy arguing about something or cracking themselves up, while the skinny guy pictured to the right looks on bewildered, that’s us. Say hi. (Or conversely, shoot us an email or a message over Twitter, and we’d love to meet you.)

Anyway, a couple years back, The Common Man wrote up his TwinsFest experience, and included a list of rules to help the uninitiated get the most out of their TwinsFest experience. As a public service, TCM thought it was time to update the list to reflect some changes in the rules for the event, and to account for the fact that TCM is a much better writer now. Anyway, here are a dozen simple rules for having a blast at TwinsFest:

And Now, a Great Story About Orlando Cepeda, Which TCM Will Proceed to Ruin

The lecture The Common Man recounted yesterday was followed by a brief question and answer session, where Dr. Samuel Regalado, of the California State University, Stanislaus, told a story to illustrate how issues language and competitiveness became entwined in both the Latino and Asian-American games.

According to Regaldo, the Giants and the Reds were playing, with Orlando Cepeda on second base, Matty Alou hitting, and Joey Jay on the mound for the Reds. As Alou came up to bat, and in between pitches, Cepeda starts yelling advice at Alou in Spanish. Jay turned and yelled “Hey, don’t you speak any English?” At which point, Cepeda yelled back, “Sure! I think you’re a cocksucker! How’s that?”

That is a great story. Unfortunately, it’s not true. Or at least not as Dr. Regalado told it last night. Because in all the games that Joey Jay pitched for the Reds against the Giants between 1961 (Jay’s first year in Cincinnati) and 1965 (Alou’s last year in San Francisco), there was never a game where Cepeda was standing on second base and Matty Alou was hitting. That doesn’t mean it’s a total bust, however. There are a lot of ways the story could still have elements of truth in it, especially when we’re looking back through 50 years of fuzzy memories.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

JoeD and Teddy Ballgame: Appropriately Rated.

By Bill

So I hope you're aware by now of the High Heat Stats blog, which is basically what the Baseball Reference blog used to be, but is no longer hosted at BB-Ref.

They've done a fun couple posts lately, attempting to list the 50 most overrated and then most underrated hitters in baseball history (today, they're starting on the pitchers). Being specifically a stats blog, of course, they were pretty limited in the ways they could come up with to arrive at lists like that. I think the one they devised (with the help of the excellent Sky Kalkman) was pretty brilliant.

Basically: use the player's career rWAR as a proxy for his true worth/value/talent/etc. Then take BB-Ref's EloRater -- a system which gauges where the thousands of BB-Ref users rate each player -- as a measure of how the fans view the player. Then, figure out an expected WAR (eWAR), representing the career rWAR we'd assume a player would have if his production merited the rating he gets on the EloRater, based on the players surrounding him in the EloRater rankings. So, the players with the highest eWAR-rWAR are your most overrated players, and the ones with the highest rWAR-eWAR are your underrateds.

Ingenious...but not necessarily perfectly attuned to tell you what the headlines promise (which they happily recognize, and I'm not sure any stat or collection of stats could do that). Some of the guys who show up on the "overrated" list spent time in the Negro Leagues, or were otherwise prevented from putting up a career rWAR that accurately reflects their worth; most of the underrated list ends up being nineteenth-century guys, whose "replacement level" was likely much, much lower than the current ones. They're interesting lists, but they don't necessarily reflect the most under- and overrated players in baseball history.

I want to focus on two names in particular, though, from the overrated list: Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio.

The Prince Fielder Logjam

by Jason Wojciechowski
More badonk!
Photo by Steve Paluch

Prince Fielder came out of more or less nowhere, to the extent that any man his size can ever come out of nowhere, to sign a nine-year, $214 million deal with the Tigers. I haven't seen yet how the dollars break down year-by-year, and the Jose Reyes and Albert Pujols deals have proved that we can't assume the classic slight rise through the course of the contract these days. Teams and players appear willing to be creative in structuring their deals.

What this means as an initial matter is that if you're a fan of looking at total deal value in present day dollars, examining team payroll situations, adding up the WARs, or other analysis of that type, you're S.O.L. at the moment and you should probably hold your horses on deciding just how good or bad the deal is.
This doesn't mean there aren't interesting questions to examine, though. Like, for instance, what this means for Miguel Cabrera. Sadly for the speculatarati, that's been decided: Cabrera is moving to third base. (Hilariously, he calls that his "natural position." FRAA, which has, over the past four years, rated him as something like a -5 to -10 run defender at first base, might disagree, but hey, we all have our blind spots.)

The Beer Is On Bud

By The Common Man

The Common Man learned several important facts last night, but perhaps the most important was that Commissioner Bud Selig knows how to throw a party. OK, a lecture. About Japanese-Americans. But it was about their relationship to baseball, primarily from 1900-1945. And was followed by a reception. And there were excellent old photos. This was the 2nd annual Selig Distinguished Lecture in Sport and Society at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and it was terrific fun.  TCM went with Carson Cistulli, of the hated FanGraphs and NotGraphs, and the impossibly young Jackie Moore, of Disciples of Uecker, FanGraphs, and too many other places to name.

Samuel O. Regalado, a professor of history at California State University, Stanislaus, had to start his talk, One Base at a Time, a little late, as the Commissioner was busy engaging with undergraduate history majors in another part of the building. When he arrived, the Commissioner made his way confidently to the front of the room, in the way only a man with iron-clad job security can.

Dr. Regalado, an expert on Latino-American and Asian-American baseball cultures, spent the next 45 minutes discussing the origins of the Japanese-American attachment to the game in the late 19th and the early 20th centuries, and how “baseball [was] part fo the chemistry that nourished the heartbeat of their world.” According to Dr. Regaldo, baseball became an important tool for Nikkei (Japanese-Americans born in the United States) to not only assert their own community solidarity, but to express their patriotism and demonstrate a willingness to assimilate into the American melting pot. According to one player in the 1931 Pacific Northwest Baseball Tournament, “putting my uniform on was like putting on the American flag.”

A New Beginning...

We promised to let you guys know soon about any changes going on at The Platoon Advantage. Today is one such day, though there will be others to follow soon. We're excited to announce that, beginning this morning, you can find our work on Baseball Prospectus once a week for the rest of 2012, and, if we don't burn the place down, hopefully more often after that. We all have been reading BPro for years, love the strong writing and analysis that they do, and were incredibly flattered when they asked us to come on board.

Today Bill starts us off by writing about allowing baseball fandom to trump numbers, and allowing those numbers to complement baseball fandom. A fitting introduction to our general philosophy here on TPA.

As for TPA, it's not going away. Our work is going to continue to appear here regularly, and will coninue to be the strong mix of history, stats, and current events, covered with the passion and irreverence that you've come to expect. And we'll keep reveling in the minutia that makes the game we love so special. Thanks to all of you for reading.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Factual Statements About Dallas McPherson

by Jason Wojciechowski

Photo by Brule Laker

Dallas McPherson signed a minor-league contract with the White Sox today. In his honor, then, and because failed prospects fascinate me, here are 20 facts1 about Dallas McPherson.

  1. In 2005-2006, McPherson hit .250/.296/.459 for the Angels in 341 plate appearances as a 24-25-year-old.

  2. This was more or less, accounting for park, a league-average performance overall, despite being quite light on avoiding making outs.

Monday, January 23, 2012

On plans and prejudice

by Jason Wojciechowski

A man, a plan ...
DN-0006156, Chicago Daily News negatives collection,
Chicago History Museum.

You know that parable about the elephant and the blind men? Baseball fans might could think about it sometimes.

Now, don't fret. I'm not here to repeat myself. This is a different point than what I've written elsewhere about acknowledging uncertainty, though it's perhaps a kissing cousin. What I want to zero in on in particular is premature judgment of a plan or the ongoing execution thereof.

The issue arises in particular in the off-season. In the cold months (ok, I'm in Los Angeles: relatively cold months) of winter, front offices begin making changes, and they're operating on multiple horizons. They're preparing for the Rule 5 draft, the early part of the season, the dog days, the stretch run, the next off-season, the next three seasons, and, for some owners, at least, the next decade over which they'll develop their fan-base and revenue streams, build a stadium, get out of the business and back into hotels, or what have you.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cust and Lee and pray for grounders

by Jason Wojciechowski

The Astros signed Jack Cust. This makes me sad, on the one hand, because I still have a dream that Cust will hit a Game 7 9th inning homer to propel the A's to their first World Series win since 1989. He's a folk hero in my house, see, the subject of my only "shirsey" (a Christmas gift from my wife, and arguably the best thing she's ever given me ... uh, aside from her hand in marriage, of course). I love his patience, I love his ridiculous upper-cut swing (so Stairsian, another player who stars on a t-shirt I own), I love his rotundity. Most of all, though, I love his defense.

I promise I'm not being contrary for the sake of it. It was a genuine delight for me to watch him try so hard in the outfield, stumbling around, making throws like he really meant it, just doing his damndest to look like an athlete when the whole world knew that he wasn't -- he's a hitter, dammit, and the DH position was invented for him. It was adorable, frankly.

Jamie Moyer: Four Degrees of Babe Ruth

By Bill

As you may have heard, Jamie Moyer, who will turn fifty years old a few weeks after the upcoming season's World Series, finalized a minor-league contract with the Colorado Rockies last night. It seems like just about the worst possible place for Moyer to play, but hey, all he's got to do is make an appearance in the majors (far from a sure thing at this point) to be one of the stories of the year.

Inspired by Diane's great collection of Moyer facts (including the first one below) over at VORG, here's a quick chain of players who show up in the same box scores as one another:

  1. On June 16, 1986, Moyer made his Major League debut for the Cubs against the Phillies. His opponent that day was Steve Carlton, aged 41, who took the mound looking for his 289th 319th win. He wouldn't get it; Moyer didn't pitch very well, but he and the Cubs came away with a 7-5 win, Lee Smith picking up the save.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Jack Morris is going to be a Hall of Famer, and that's OK.

By Bill

I've been about as critical of Jack Morris -- or, more accurately, of his Hall of Fame case -- as anyone traversing this here information superhighway ever has been. I'm not ashamed. One post in particular was probably one of my two or three favorites among all the baseball things I've ever written, comparing Bert Blyleven to Morris + Mariano Rivera.

But that's enough, now. More than enough. By now, every single person in a position to care -- and that includes every single BBWAA voter, or close enough to it -- has heard all the arguments. They know he wasn't really the best pitcher of the 1980s, that his career stats don't stand out in any meaningful way from those of Frank Tanana or Dennis Martinez, that his ERA was only a touch better than average, and would be the highest of any pitcher in the Hall. They even know -- or have heard, at least, if they won't allow themselves to be convinced -- that he didn't actually "pitch to the score." There's nothing new under the Jack Morris world's intense angry red mustachioed sun.

Oh, there might be new ways to say things to keep it interesting and worth saying -- I'd humbly suggest that the post above might have qualified, and this one last week, by BPro's Jonathan Bernhardt, certainly did -- and every now and then you might just need to lash out against something that's obviously, objectively wrong and happens to be about Morris ... but just spitting out stats and comps and telling people he's not qualified, whether on Twitter or your blog or anywhere else, doesn't cut it anymore. It's browbeating, and it's counterproductive at this point.

Here's the thing: he's going in. There's absolutely nothing you, or I, or all of us together can do about that. And that's okay.

Transparency in Hall of Fame Voting

By Mark Smith

I think there was a “groupthink” Hall of Fame ballot among “sabermetricians”. It involved voting for Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell, Barry Larkin, and Alan Trammel, but it was perfectly fine to add Edgar Martinez, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, and/or Larry Walker. If you are a “big Hall” guy, you were allowed to bring in Fred McGriff and/or Dale Murphy, but those ten are about where the line was drawn. I say “groupthink” because anyone outside of those 10 were routinely criticized and even McGriff or Murphy would have brought you a decent amount of criticism and at least a demand for a good reason. The quotation marks were added because I think those 8-10 players were the result of solid research and comparison, but it was so common to see the names that it was almost expected. The voting surrounding the actual voters, however, was much more scattered.

Because of the variance in the voting among the electorate this year and in past years, there have been calls for an end to the secret ballot. The idea is pretty simple. The BBWAA is voting on a fairly important part of the game, and because the votes seem scattered and in no way consistent, fans want the votes revealed in order to make sure the voters are doing enough research and using consistency in their thinking. It’s a call for accountability.

The whole thing seems akin to Congress. Congress votes on legislation that will affect the future of the country, and because of the importance of the voting and to avoid corruption (haha), the voting is open to the public record. The lack of a secret ballot helps voters know who they should vote in to office and who actually reflects the district’s beliefs. The problem is that the type of voting isn’t exactly similar. Congress is making country-altering decisions. BBWAA voters aren’t even making baseball-altering decisions (it doesn’t really matter to baseball itself who is voted in and not). Perhaps if the BBWAA voted on instant replay or the like, they should be held accountable, but their votes are more akin to the Congress being asked to vote on the best politicians in American history for a private museum. We need the Congressional Record to be open. We want the Hall of Fame ballot to be open.

As a result of the lack of actual need, the revelation of ballots needs to be negotiated, either formally or informally. In order to get the voters to reveal the ballots, you have to give the writers something in return. Why? Let’s pretend to be in the BBWAA for a moment. Why would you reveal your vote? One answer could be the attention, but the one we’re focused on is accountability. You want your readers to know you are accountable, responsible, for your vote. I hate to break it to you, but that isn’t exactly a great motivating factor. Quite a few voters may feel the need to be accountable, but for the most part, accountability doesn’t pay the bills or keep their HoF vote. It’s theirs for life, so you’re going to have to work harder. The best result is garnering praise, but the most likely result is having to constantly defend your vote to smart and uninformed arguers alike. When the most likely result of your revelation is basically being annoyed and probably still having your intelligence questioned, I'm not surprised that most of the writers don't reveal their votes (though I'd like to note that I don't think the writers who did not reveal their votes are afraid of accountability; there are other reasons they may not have written something to that effect).

To be honest, the strategy isn’t to add something (you could try money or something, but I doubt that would work) but to subtract something - your attention and readership. I don’t see that happening, however, so we’re back to square one. We’re caught. We’re unhappy with the way things are (it should be noted that I would like writers to reveal and defend their votes; I agree theoretically), but we don’t really have any leverage to change the situation. The situation is more like players using steroids. They finally agreed to testing, but that was only because they believed that the credibility of their profession was on the precipice of collapse. I don’t think that mainstream journalism’s credibility is in the same jeopardy.

Listen, I would love for writers to be held accountable for their votes. It’s the best way to get them to vote in an educated and responsible manner. But we’re caught. The BBWAA and Hall of Fame rules don’t force them to reveal their votes, and there’s no compelling reason to make them change.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

30 teams, 30 reasons to hate

by Jason Wojciechowski
Following up on my last post, here is one thing for each team (almost each team) that I hold against that team's fans. I hate all of you.
Yankees -- Jeffrey Maier. I don't care how long ago it was. Jeffrey Maier
Red Sox -- pink hats, dogg. Pink hats.
Rays -- your very existence confounds me. If you're a Floridian who was desperate for a baseball team of your own, how did you not end up with the Marlins? I mean, be a fan of who you want, I don't care. I just don't get it.

Happy Birthday...

Randy Jones!

The National League gave out ten Cy Young Awards in the decade of the 1970s, as you'd probably expect. Eight of them went to players who were now in the Hall of Fame: two to Tom Seaver, two to Steve Carlton, and one each to Bob Gibson, Fergie Jenkins, Gaylord Perry, and Bruce Sutter.

One of the other two was Mike Marshall, the rubber-armed reliever turned kind of crazy kinesiologist doing scary things with young pitchers' arms, who appeared in a record 106 games in relief in 1974 -- 13 in a row, at one point -- and pitched 208.1 innings, all in relief, gathering 15 wins (with 12 losses) and a league-leading 21 saves.

The tenth one, you've probably guessed, was Randy Jones.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Peter Abraham Is Not a Plagiarist, But He Is An Insufferable Douchebag

By The Common Man

One last navel-gazing post this week, before we get back to business here on The Platoon Advantage. Some of you have asked who the writer is who, through his threats and general complaints, got us removed from the SweetSpot Network, despite the fact that seemingly everyone (including several writers at ESPN) thought our Bagwell and “plagiarism” series was excellent.  As Bill said earlier, we don't want to personally attack writers for their baseball opinions.  But when a writer reveals himself to be a jackass through his words and actions, we feel somewhat differently about the whole thing.

So, at the urging of at least one national writer, who referred to our culprit as “a complete asshole” and revealed that “even people who work with him/by him…loathe him,” we’re happy to announce that, when you see us all driving shiny new Camaros over the next few months (our swift departure from ESPN has revealed a great deal of interest in our services and our blog, as it turns out), you have The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham to thank for it.

One quick thought on SaberBoy

By Bill

I was going to make a whole "manifesto" out of this: the key principles of SaberBoy's view on the baseball world. But I wasn't making it funny enough to come off as intended, and I don't take myself nearly seriously enough to do it straight. So I'll just stick to the one most important point.

By now, if you're reading this, odds are you've already gotten a glimpse (at least) of the whole "SaberBoy" thing. If not, the internet has you covered: it's wrapped up pretty well by Stuart Jones here, by Steve Gardner of USA Today here, and by Craig Calcaterra at NBC Sports here, and our very own Mark has a profile of the new hero right here. Sarah Wiener designed the logo to the right, and has T-shirts and other stuff for sale. Craziness, all of it. Certainly not what I was expecting to come out of a Monday that started with us announcing our departure from ESPN. In the span of 24 hours, thanks pretty much entirely to the new name and avatar, I picked up something over 250 new Twitter followers. That was a lot of fun.

There's a pretty obvious danger in a superhero character named SaberBoy, though, and I think it's fairly well outlined (as I read it, at least) in a comment by one of my favorite tweeters and casual baseball-related acquaintances:

Indeed, most of the torrent of initial jokes centered around the new superhero making the world safe for [tired statgeek cliches] against his arch-nemeses [traditional mainstream sportswriter] and [Jack Morris or Jim Rice or Tim McCarver]. Lots of the lines were really funny. Mark had a few right here. There's a line in my Twitter bio that gives a similar impression -- a crusader to battle the BBWAA and bring them into line.

But that's not what it was about, though. In fact, I think it's kind of the opposite of what it's about.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Leave other fans aloooooooooooone

by Jason Wojciechowski

As a blogger and inveterate Tweeter, I don't have a lot of moral authority to ask people not to make fun of something. We've all jabbed beat writers, said mean things about front offices, wished that TV announcers would lose their jobs (or even rejoiced when the latter actually happens). There is an area that I think we'd all be better off leaving alone, though: fans.

Asshole fans exist everywhere. Nice, sober guys don't get into fights in the stands at the game. Dicks and drunks do. Chill bros don't run on the field so they'll get tased. Attention whores living unfulfilled lives do. Committed fans don't jabber on their cell phones through the whole game, pausing only long enough to wave at a TV camera when it points their way. People with misplaced priorities do. (What on earth could be more important than the game on the field?)

Profiling Saber Boy

By Mark Smith

If you didn’t see all the hubbub on Twitter last night concerning Bill, take a look here to get a look at a recap to see what got it started. Basically, Keith Law and Bill called out Randy Miller, who no longer covers baseball, for submitting a blank ballot as his vote for the Hall of Fame, and after several inane excuses, Miller called Bill “Saber boy”. As you might imagine, the baseball-Twitter-geek-blogging part of the Twitterosphere went into a category 5 hurricane of asking Bill to change his handle (I think I was first, damn it), figuring out what Bill’s super powers would be, trying to make the best photoshopped avatar, and the usual blind rage. After what seemed like an hour, the storm finally waned, and Twitter went back to trying to figure out how many ways it could make the joke that they could predict that one SEC team would lose the National Championship game last night. All in all, what began as a bad day ended up pretty good for our new super hero.

What we have to do now is figure out the story from here. What does Saber Boy fight? What powers does he have? Where does he live? And most importantly, who are the villains?

Setting: Twitter, Somewhere in Minnesota, around now.

Lair/Hideout: Bill’s Mom’s Basement (obvs)

Disguise: Avatar and Twitter Handle (@Saber_Boy)

Fights: Idiocy, Intellectual Bankruptcy, Logical Disconnects, Plagiarists, My Twitter Handle, Dolts, Bumbling Ineptitude, Dumbassery

Super Powers: Intertubes-Piercing Logic, Sharp Wit, Hashtags, Papal Infallibility, Use of Spreadsheets and Facts

Sidekicks: The Common Man, JL Beane

Super Villains: (villain: crime; special powers/moves/weapons)

- Randy Miller: Sinister laziness; throws blank ballots in a Gambit-like fashion

- John Heyman: Rumor-mongering and analytical ineptitude; creates look-alikes called “Mystery Teams” (find Scott Boras and you’ll find the real Heyman)

- Dr. Strangeglove: Using errors and fielding percentage; throws exploding baseballs inaccurately (mostly collateral damage)

- Winning Pitcher: Using win-loss records; frisbeeing old musical records (frequent elbow injuries keep him out of commission)

- Life-Saver: Acts like he’s about to save you before blowing you up; bombs (surprisingly lethal to intellect)

- Blogger Chass: Mind-blurrying nostalgia; clich├ęs, anachronisms, stories whose truth has yet to be verified (note: can turn a group of old people against you in a hurry)

- McCarver: Too many to list; tools of ignorance

- Braves_And_Pie: betrayal caused by a few too many jabs at his Twitter handle; subtweets, blog-jeopardizing posts like this one (mostly harmless)

- Victor Van Benschoten: Prospect over-hype; insane trade ideas, erroneous visions of the future (frequently fails of his own accord, but you’ll spend a lot of time and energy worrying about him anyway)

- SABRtooth: Fredi Gonzalez in disguise promoting false sabermetrics to confuse crowd into fighting you; sacrifice bunts and intentional walks (brutal strength and can collapse sturdy-looking structures)

- Ray Kingpin: Over-emphasis on relievers; bad contracts that leave you in a bind (he’s fat and can’t hit the broad-side of a barn, but he just won’t go away)

- Megatron (Calvin Johnson): Distracting Twitter from baseball; hair-raising catches, stiff arms (could probably kill you regardless of what you do; try to avoid)

- John Lackey: Begin hideous; horrible looks (takes advantage of you looking away to stab you in the back)

- Mystique: Changes skin to blend into scenery or into other person; narratives (hard to see, but use of Intertubes-Piercing Logic should do the trick)

Obviously, this is just a start, and any suggestions in the comments would be welcome. The objective is to get someone to actually write a comic book or strip involving our hero triumphing over evil. It's already a shirt!